Trying to figure out the best way to present the licensing interface
for NewsBruiser, I decided to see which Creative Commons licenses were
the most popular. I ran a Google link: search for all 11
Creative Commons licenses, plus additional CC-provided licenses like
the public domain dedication 'license' and the CC-GNU GPL and LGPL. I
used the canonical license link: the URL I would link to if I were
licensing something. It turns out that only four or five of the 15+
licenses are used by any substantial number of people.
The top five licenses are all Attribution-type licenses, with the
most popular being Attribution-NonCommercial with nearly 25,000 hits. The least popular
Creative Commons license, with only 13 takers, is the CC-GNU LGPL license.
License Design Implications
It looks like Creative Commons has enough licenses. The core
licenses have proven very effective at meeting people's needs, and
there's no need to keep minting new ones because as far as I can tell
the new ones don't get used. This might indicate that the new licenses
are created in response to "You should have such-and-such a license"
feedback rather than in response to people who don't like any of the
existing Creative Commons licenses.
For instance, consider the Creative Commons "Music Sharing
License", which is effectively the same as
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs. It's a lot more popular than its
forlorn twin, but here "popularity" means 177 hits on Google instead
of 16. It's dwarfed by its own commentary: Googling for "music sharing
license" gets you 530 results talking about the latest license from
Creative Commons. Compare to a
string search for, eg. "Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike". You get
people actually using the license, not talking about it. Creating a new license gets Creative Commons some
buzz, but not much more; it looks like everyone who wants a license
already has one they like.
The GNU licenses were probably created on behalf of GPL fanatics who kept
bugging the Creative Commons people "why don't you have a GPL
license?". Now that they're here, few people use them. My guess is, most people
who want to use the GPL are using the actual GPL.
I didn't include them (or Music Sharing) in the survey because
they're for music, but the URLs to the Sampling and Sampling Plus
licenses are also mentioned almost nowhere on the web. This might be
because no one uses them, because they're newer, because they don't
get used correctly, or because they get used in ways that Google can't
pick up. My methodology isn't as good for licenses not used by web
pages (which probably also affects the GPL/LGPL numbers), so I will reserve judgement on these--but again, I searched for
links to the URL I'd link to if I were licensing something under that
Creative Commons license. The fact that the most popular licenses get
tens of thousands of hits indicate that there's not some systemic
disconnect where people don't link to the license they're using.
On the flip side, it does look like the CC public domain dedication
is getting some good use--it's the sixth most popular license. I think
this and the Founders' Copyright license (about which below) feed into
a core competency of Creative Commons--being a trusted repository for
If you want to let someone choose a Creative Commons license (in
addition to whatever non-CC licenses), you don't need a bunch of
orthogonal sets of radio buttons like the Creative Commons
license picker has. You can provide four individual radio buttons
and an 'other' field. This will handle 84% of the cases without
greatly inconveniencing the other 16% of the people. (You want an
'other' field anyway, since people come up with all kinds of crazy
non-CC licenses for their stuff.)
I couldn't measure the success of the Founder's Copyright because I
couldn't find one canonical URL for the license. However, it's a good
idea and I'm going to make it an option in NewsBruiser. This brings up
my other UI design factor: in addition to the four most popular
Creative Commons licenses, you can add whatever ones you like and
think people should use. They'll be more likely to be used if they're
options and not an 'other'.
Data below, if you're interested: